Middle River Dispatches is a gumbo of posts about fly-fishing, conservation, politics and days afield.

New red snapper proposals need safeguards from overfishing

Lawmakers in the House and Senate recently introduced legislation aimed at the perpetually contentious Gulf of Mexico red snapper fishery. Thanks to stronger conservation standards and accountability, red snapper numbers in the Gulf have tripled in the last decade and catch limits have doubled, lead

Source: New red snapper proposals need safeguards from overfishing

Don’t Believe the Lies. Sportsmen Remain United on Conservation Issues

When it comes to the outdoors, Americans agree on the core issues

Source: Don’t Believe the Lies. Sportsmen Remain United on Conservation Issues

A Sea Change

“We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason if we dig deep into our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men. Not from men who feared to write, to associate, to speak, and to defend the causes that were for the moment unpopular.” -Edward R. Morrow

This week I let the members and supporters of the Outdoor Writers Association of America know I was leaving my position as Executive Director and going to work for the Marine Fish Conservation Network. It was a difficult decision and one I did not make hastily or lightly, but in the end my heart and Morrow’s words won out.

I need no more reason why than this…

Truth be told the future of our marine resources for my grandchildren and their grandchildren weighed on me. I didn’t want to look back on my life and think I could have done more.

Jim Range and Jean Ince (courtesy of John Ince)

Memories of an old friend, Jim Range, reminded me; “Tommy we have to protect the wild things. If we don’t do it, it won’t get done.

I still have some fight left in me and want to get back in the game more directly.

Here is what I told the OWAA members and supporters:

It has been my pleasure and honor to serve as OWAA’s executive director for almost four years, but the time has come for me to move on. On Jan. 1, 2017, I will return to the advocacy world and join the Marine Fish Conservation Network as deputy director.

I assure you my leaving OWAA has nothing to do with the organization or anyone associated with it, but is solely motivated by my desire to “get back into the fight” and use my advocacy and organizing experience to protect our marine resources and the people that depend on them.

OWAA’s mission has never been more important, but my heart lies elsewhere. I know the organization is stable, has good leaders and will continue quite well without me. With Colleen Miniuk-Sperry taking over my duties, I know the day-to-day operations will continue seamlessly and the membership will be well served. I look forward to seeing and being part of OWAA’s continued success just in a different role as a member and a supporter.

During my time at OWAA I learned that we are a tribe, a guild, the keepers of the flame and take the work as chroniclers seriously. We are, in fact, the Voice of the Outdoors. OWAA is serious about our work as journalists and will vigorously defend the First Amendment. Our Circle of Chiefs are our conservation conscience and continue to remind us of important issues facing the future of the outdoors. And our conference is the best opportunity for liked-minded journalists to gather, learn and share.

Today, more than ever in OWAA’s 90-year history, the work we do as outdoor journalists is critically important, and we need to do it as well as we possibly can. To quote Edward R. Morrow, “We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason if we dig deep into our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men. Not from men who feared to write, to associate, to speak, and to defend the causes that were for the moment unpopular.”

I hope to see many of you in Duluth, Minnesota, Ft. Wayne, Indiana, or at future conferences.

Casting a Tenkara Rod

TS-Demo-02062016

Jason Sparks photo

Casting demonstrations are a great way to introduce tenkara. For the last couple of years, I have had the good fortune to do tenkara casting demos at The Fly Fishing Shows in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Lancaster, Pennsylvania and the Virginia Fly Fishing Festival.

Among the myriad benefits of fishing with a tenkara rod is how easy the rod is to cast. While the fundamental casting principles still apply, the simplicity of the outfit; just a rod and a line, make casting a very simple and intuitive process.

A fly rod and reel outfit uses a rod that is designed to cast a weighted line. As my friend Dusty Wissmath likes to say; it is a flexible lever designed to cast a flexible weight. Each rod is designed to cast a specific line weight. There needs to be a certain amount of that weighted line out beyond the rod tip to make the rod cast the line to the target. The weighted line is essential to the system. It is what allows the rod to load and make the cast.

The caster loads the rod using the force of physical energy to build potential energy (bend or “load” the rod) that when released (the rod straightens) becomes kinetic energy transferred to the line, delivering the fly to the target. The weighted line is essential to building the amount of potential energy or load in the rod.

A tenkara rod is a very flexible lever designed to cast a variety of very light lines. The line weight is not the essential element to loading the rod. Just moving your arm or flicking your wrist will load the rod. My rod of choice is a Patagonia 10′ 6″ tenkara rod.

Let’s look at the steps for casting a conventional fly rod.

  • Start with the rod tip on or near the surface of the water with two or three-rod lengths of line out in front of you.
  • Raise and accelerate the rod backward to an abrupt stop just past vertical.
  • Let the line extend straight out behind you.
  • Accelerate the rod forward to an abrupt stop with the rod tip at about head level.
  • Follow the line down to the water.

Now let’s look at the steps for casting a tenkara rod.

  • Start with the rod tip in front of you with about a rod length of line hanging from the tip of the rod.
  • Accelerate the rod backward to an abrupt stop just before or at vertical.
  • Let the line extend straight out behind you.
  • Accelerate the rod forward to an abrupt stop with the rod tip at about head level.
  • Don’t follow the line down to the water especially if you are fishing a dry fly or dry dropper.

The elements of timing, so important in the weighted line system, are not as critical with the tenkara cast because your physical energy controls the loading of the rod. The line plays a much smaller role in making the cast work. This is one of the reasons people enjoy using a tenkara rod. The casting execution is very very simple.

In addition to the above, there are other differences in casting a tenkara rod that contribute to making it easier.

  • You can use your wrist to make a cast; a big “no no” with conventional fly casting.
  • You don’t “shoot” line eliminating the need to master the “pat your head while rubbing your stomach” element of conventional fly casting.
  • You don’t need to mend the line as often or in most cases at all.
  • The cast requires less energy and is slower.
  • You tend to cast more “open” loops making casting two fly rigs less prone to tangling.

THE TAKEAWAY

Casting a tenkara rod is not a whole lot different from casting a conventional fly rod. Someone who has mastered casting a conventional rod will understand it in seconds. Most beginners will quickly get the hang of it and spend more time concentrating on fishing rather than casting, and isn’t that the whole point anyway?

Author’s note: A version of this article first appeared in Hatch Magazine.

Disclosure.

Tenkara Demo

It is show season and I had the chance to do a couple of casting demos and seminars at The Fly Fishing Show in Winston Salem, North Carolina.

As part of the Mossy Creek Fly Fishing crew and a Patagonia Fly Fishing Ambassador it is great opportunity to share how easy and fun tenkara is as a fishing technique.

“The more you know the less you need.”

TS-Demo-02062016

Photo by Jason Sparks

Two Fly Tenkara

In September I was in Idaho for a press event hosted by Patagonia. The purpose was to go into deep detail about their 2016 line of waders. As a newly minted Patagonia ambassador, I was along to talk about Patagonia’s approach to tenkara.

SFF BookAn added benefit was having Yvon Chouinard, Patagonia’s owner and hardcore tenkara proponent, join us for the three days. Chouinard and two colleagues, Craig Mathews and Mauro Mazzo have written a book, entitled Simple Fly Fishing, on simple techniques for fly-fishing and tenkara and this was a chance to see some of Chouinard’s techniques in practice.

Chouinard and Patagonia are committed to using tenkara and the simple techniques it requires to get more people into fly-fishing and as a side benefit, become stewards of the natural world.

Tenkara, for me, has always shone as a dry fly technique, so I was intrigued when Chouinard talked about using tenkara to fish two soft hackles, downstream. He said it was his preferred way of teaching people how to use a tenkara set up because it was so effective.

Most of the people who participated in the event had never fished with a tenkara rod and some had never fly-fished at all. To his credit, Chouinard took these folks under his wing and using his technique, quickly had them catching fish after fish.

This is a downstream fishing technique that may fly in the face of some long held fly-fishing conventions. I saw it work with others time and time again, used it myself and now I’m a believer. The key is keeping the line tight so you can connect with the fly and the fish.

LINE LENGTHLine

If you are fishing a 10-foot, six-inch or 11-foot rod use 20 feet of floating line. 20 feet may seem long to those of us in the east but on the western rivers it was just the ticket. I have tried the technique on my local spring creeks and shortened the line to 14 feet.

A seven-foot, six-inch leader is attached to the line with a perfection or double surgeon’s knot. I adapted this for our local water by cutting 2 feet off the butt end of the leader, making it 5 feet, 6 inches. I know this seems like a large knot and it would be for dry flies, but the goal is to keep tension on the line and the drag from the knot helps.

Floating lines are becoming more common and Patagonia offers 40 feet of 0.027-inch Cortland floating line made of a small-diameter, hard mono core and a supple PVC coating. Each package includes a seven-foot, six-inch, 3x leader. They retail for $24.95.

THE DROPPER SET UP

A word of caution here; two fly rigs, if not cast well, can become a tangle very quickly, so casting fundamentals are key. The most fundamental of fundamentals is keep slack out of the system.

fliesWe were using soft hackles and I heartily recommend them. The point fly is tied to the end of the tippet and will be the larger, bushier or heavier of the two flies. The dropper will be smaller or lighter and tied in above the point fly. Two flies give the fish two food choices, help straighten the line as you fish and most importantly, the flies have two different actions in the water.

The easiest way to tie on the dropper was with a dropper loop, a separate piece of tippet attached to the leader above the point fly. Here is how you do it. Tie in a length of tippet for the point fly, say 3 feet. Now take six to nine inches of the same size tippet and tie a perfection loop or double surgeons knot on one end.

Hitch the section of tippet to the leader by taking the tag end through the loop and tightening it above the knot to the last section of tippet. Tie your fly to the tag end and you are set to go.

Chouinard shared a tip with me about this; use regular nylon tippet for the point fly, but stiffer fluorocarbon for the dropper. The stiffer fluoro helps keep the dropper away from the main leader/tippet reducing tangles.

CASTING AND FISHING

Make a quartering (45-degree) downstream cast. As soon as the flies are in the water make an upstream mend. Yes, upstream. Upstream mends will get the slack out and not swing those soft hackles too fast, they are nymph imitations after all, not streamers. The two flies and the bulky knots will help keep the line tight so you can feel any hits. The key is to maintain direct control of the flies.

When the flies are downstream you can make subtle twitches to the two flies by putting your thumb on top of the rod and squeezing the cork with your fingers. You don’t want to make big moves, just a small twitch to make the soft hackle pulse. Time and again I saw fish hit at the end of the twitch, their predator instinct hard at work.

DRIES AND TERRESTRIALS

Those of you who like fishing dries like I do will also benefit from this technique. Substitute a caddis, stimulator or terrestrial for the dropper and with a bit of practice you will have that dropper hopping rather than skittering or swimming. In one run out west, using this hopping caddis technique, I brought a dozen rainbows to hand in less than half an hour.

THE TAKEAWAY

While I’m still a devout member of the church of the dead drift, I saw firsthand how this simple technique had rank beginners catch fish in short order. It opened my eyes to another way of introducing new people to tenkara and helping them unlock the door to more enjoyable time on the water.

Author’s note: This article first appeared in Hatch Magazine.

Products mentioned and shown here are available at Mossy Creek Fly Fishing.

Disclosure.